Kirsten Johnson

Director/ Cinematographer ("Camera Person")

Kirsten Johnson, Director/ Cinematographer ("Camera Person")

Kirsten Johnson has worked as both documentary cinematographer and director committing herself to human rights issues and visual creativity. She is the principal cinematographer on over 40 feature-length documentaries and has been credited on countless others. After graduating from Brown University in 1987 with a BA in Fine Arts and Literature she travelled to Senegal to study with acclaimed filmmakers Djibril Diop Mambety and Ousmane Sembene. The experience inspired her to apply to the French National Film School (La Femis), where she began to study cinematography. While in La Femis she began to shoot the documentary Derrida, with directors Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick the earliest of Johnson’s work to appear in Cameraperson. After graduating from La Femis she went on to shoot a number of highly-acclaimed and award-winning documentaries including “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” “Fahrenheit 9/11” “This Film is Not Yet Rated” and “The Invisible War.” She has a longstanding collaboration with Oscar-winning filmmaker Laura Poitras, credited as cinematographer for “The Oath,” “Citizenfour,” the upcoming ""Asylum."" Additionally, she shot footage that appeared in Poitras' visual exhibition on surveillance, which opened at the Whitney Museum in spring 2016. In 2009 Johnson embarked on a directorial project documenting the lives of two teenagers in Afghanistan, the film was to be called “A Blind Eye.” After 3 years of shooting and cutting one of the teenagers retracted her permission to be featured and the film’s scope was reconsidered and structured around the footage that was shot, as well as footage from over 30 films Johnson had worked on over the years. Eventually this was edited into the film that became ""Cameraperson."" When not shooting she teaches the class in “Visual Thinking” at the NYU Graduate Journalism Department, a course in cinematography at SVA, and often leads workshops for young camerapeople and documentarians under the auspices of the Arab Art and Culture Fund in countries such as Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia.

Faculty News view all

DOC NYC 2019 - SocDoc in Abundance!
October 21, 2019

DOC NYC 2019 - SocDoc in Abundance!

We are thrilled to see so many SocDoc filmmakers a part of this year’s DOC NYC line-up! DOC NYC, America's largeset documentary festival, is entering it's tenth year, November 6-15, 2019. We are proud long-time supporters of the festiva Read More
Fall 2020 Info Sessions
October 15, 2019

Fall 2020 Info Sessions

Ready to incite change and amplify the compelling stories you find in the world? Our graduate documentary film program sharpens your artistic voice. Read More
SocDoc Faculty Films Airing Now!
October 09, 2019

SocDoc Faculty Films Airing Now!

SVA MFA Documentary Faculty prides itself on the fact that our entire faculty are working filmmakers. And, they are busy! Here’s a rundown of just some of our faculty’s recent films. Click the links to watch the films & find out more! Read More
9th Annual Thesis Showcase Films
September 24, 2019

9th Annual Thesis Showcase Films

Celebrate the graduates of School of VISUAL ARTS MFA Social Documentary Film with the 9th Annual Thesis Showcase. We are proud to celebrate GROUP 9, the class of 2019! Here we share their work-in-progress thesis films, which inspire and a Read More